STANDISH — What began as a plea for peace and quiet from Standish residents living near a sand pit being used as a de-facto shooting range has turned into a debate about Second Amendment rights in this rural southern Maine town.

Complaints from residents who live near a sand pit owned by Maietta Construction led the town to propose sweeping restrictions on firearm use on private property in the town. That, in turn, led to a powerful backlash from others determined to protect what they consider their rights and traditions.

“This wasn’t received well,” Standish Town Manager Gordon Billington said Wednesday, a day after about 130 people packed a meeting and defended their gun rights. The meeting ended after the town council unanimously voted down the gun-range ordinance.

Located on a rural stretch of Route 114 in the Richville neighborood, the pit has been the site of informal recreational shooting for decades, and more recently has been used for firearm training by the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Department, said Vincent Maietta, the property’s owner.

Trouble began last summer when he allowed a firearms instruction company to use the site to train its students, a commercial use that ran afoul of zoning laws in the town.

Weaponcraft, a Saco-based firearms training company, hosted about 10 classes at the pit from roughly July through September, sometimes using high-powered military-style rifles, Maietta said. A message left with Weaponcraft was not immediately returned Wednesday.

“Thousands of rounds a day were being fired up there,” Billington said. “The neighbors were very concerned.”

The town issued Weaponcraft a cease-and-desist order in September based on the zoning rules and the company has not applied for a commercial recreation permit since then, Billington said.

The shooting classes ended, but neighbors, apparently unnerved by the use of firearms at the 100-acre site, filed a petition with 47 signatures asking the town to halt the use of the property as a gun range.

“We find it to be a public nuisance and disturbance of the tranquility of our neighborhood and peace of mind,” the petition read.

Ten of the signatories met with the town’s ordinance committee. After the committee was informed that it could not single out one property in an ordinance without exposing the town to a discrimination claim, it crafted sweeping restrictions on firearms use that would have prohibited landowners from allowing anyone else to shoot a gun on their property outside of hunting season, Billington said.

Outside of hunting season, “only a property owner could fire on his own property,” Billington said. “He couldn’t invite others in.”

The ordinance also would have required town approval before future ranges could be built, and require range owners to carry $3 million in liability insurance. It also included a requirement that noise from rifle or handgun shots not exceed 65 decibels at the range’s property line.

For comparison, a conversation between two people standing about three feet apart registers around the same noise level.

Janet Lampron, one of the abutting property owners and a vocal critic of the pit’s operations, said Wednesday she was dismayed that what began as complaints against a single property had expanded to affect every property in town.

“It was just ridiculous that our little petition of 47 people to control our neighborhood went to a whole townwide thing,” Lampron said. “That was not our intention. Our intention was to control our neighborhood, not to get the whole town mad at us. I’m fine with hunting. Just not in my backyard.”

Red flags went up in the gun-rights and sporting communities. Advocates quickly spread the word ahead of the meeting Tuesday when the ordinance was to be officially introduced.

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the National Rifle Association, leading gun rights advocates at the state and national levels, sent out alerts to area members, urging them to contact the Standish Town Council.

“Not only would this misguided ordinance violate the state range protection law, it simply goes beyond what is acceptable or reasonable for public safety,” The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action wrote in a statement.

David Trahan, executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance, saw the ordinance as the latest in a string of attempts by southern Maine communities to restrict firearms rights because of pressure from suburban residents.

Similar concerns led to the passage in March of a gun-range ordinance in Cape Elizabeth, where residents of a nearby subdivision clashed with the desire of a long-standing shooting range to continue operating unimpeded. The town put in place licensing and oversight provisions.

At 80 square miles and with just under 10,000 people, Standish has about half the population density of Cape Elizabeth, where about 9,000 people live in 45 square miles.

Mainers’ fierce defense of gun rights – something more often seen at the State House than in town halls – has extended to firing ranges before. A state range protection law prohibits new noise ordinances from shutting down existing gun ranges.

“There is no need to ban target practicing,” Trahan said. “We thought what they were proposing went way too far.”